Fiduciary Agents

The basing of consumer choices on poorly grounded opinions rarely attracts attention.  Young mothers ponder human rights in Central America when selecting fruit at the supermarket.  Salesmen and customers at the computer store take turns keeping up appearances of expertise.  A trip to buy eggs is derailed on a conundrum over animal ethics and the physiology of proteins.   Making consumer choices is like gambling with a gang of invisible bullies without even knowing the stakes.   This system seems to be lacking in fiduciary agencies to support consumer decision-making.

The fiduciary is a concept from classical jurisprudence which has been tragically lost in the equivocities of neoliberal “law and economics”.  The familiar liberal governments are limited to playing merely regulatory roles in the economy, to just enforcing some minimum standards in the comportment of companies. Individuals are left to decide which companies they deal with, and to negotiate by themselves permitted that companies have not broken the law.  But as economic decisions spiral off into astronomical degrees of complexity (particularly with elevated uncertainties about future pricing and environment), perhaps it is natural for the economic role of the state to evolve. Instead of just regulating the economy, governments might try ensure that citizens are able to make good choices. This would force governments to have superior intelligence on the circulation of commodities, or even a special class of fiduciary officers to support consumer decision-making. Perhaps this is where public discourses approach theology.

Its well-known that markets erode customary models of authority, and this process can leave populations with systemic uncertainties of apocalyptic magnitude. Perhaps its an apocalyptic literature could help to unveil new markets before consumers. To traverse the impossible darkness of the Daoist millennium, where the one God has completely abandoned us, and we can only seek protection by simulating equivocal deities in end times. The Daoist Gods provide protection from dangerous ethereal cohorts, along with the capacity to negotiate with these alien hordes.  So perhaps its time for a Daoist model of fiduciary power: the election of quasi-divine authorities to decide on populations’ behalf. Where neoliberal (regulatory) authorities manage markets according to quantitative norms,  the  fiduciary offices would be agencies with complex sensitivities to popular desire – this is the transcendental bureaucracy of the castle which operates through economic sympathies.

The idea is simply to allow citizens the option to defer market choices.  If you didn’t want to make a certain choice, the fiduciary would make that choice for you. This agency would seek to balance interests globally by selecting low-cost proletarian options that could offer numerous advantages over laize faire markets.  They would be in a position to solve intricacies surrounding health, environment and industrial ethics, and would also coordinate complex exchanges internationally. Competition would continue between companies, but this would shift towards soliciting the fiduciaries, instead of attacking the consumers directly. It would be the fiduciaries task to calculate the best options for everyone globally by aligning and balancing layers of interests.  Not representing anyone in particular, the fiduciaries would be mandated to place the consumer in solidarity with the cosmos, making this a Neo-Pythagorian profession, or a progressive strain of neo-Confucianism.

Within the current arrangement of universities, it is primarily the stupidity of students which is exploited. Their enrollment implies forced-choices from a bewildering array of programs, courses, seminars, topics, books and living arrangements.  Of course students do enjoy making these choices, as they are made to feel like unique adults who have things their way.  Just as they were told as kids they could be anything they wanted to be, so university attempts a premature fulfillment of that infantile fantasy.  The false specter of their own individuality blinds them to their lack of knowledge regarding these choices – how are they to understand the difference in value between degrees at different universities? The students lack any heuristic to express comparisons between these values, and so they are inevitably duped. Such a condition of vulnerability makes fiduciary agencies necessary.

Fiduciaries would reduce the number of unreasonable decisions that students (for example) are expected to make.  Incoming students might be given some assessments, and then told where they would be having classes.  This would be a system where the people would have the option of trusting experts (even selecting their own experts who they can trust) to figure out what’s best for them. The fiduciary would have the task of making students into powerful contributing members of the society, and their performance in that role could potentially be measured. Such authorities might even realize it is impractical to have separate departmental programs in undergraduate education. Perhaps everyone would benefit most from having one generic course of study that providing a basis in maths, sciences and humanities.  Some schools, like McMaster University in Hamilton, are offering generic undergraduate degrees in “arts and sciences”, and this perhaps will open the market for restored classical education.

Economic discourses have avoided some of the most important questions, such as, what are the options regarding how the public side of the economy can work? Its possible to radically alter the entire field of macroeconomics by introducing public agencies that decide on behalf of populations who surrender their power of choice. This class of authority would have to distinguish itself from the disintegrating background of Neoliberal administration. Note that this agent could operate without any change in laws, as it only requires that consumers accept its recommendations –  a natural accession to authority based strictly on intellectual integrity. The fiduciary semiotics would have to separate itself from the background noise of advertising and PR, from the eternull drone of the broken image. The fiduciary would be the lynch-pin for a metaphysical regime change.

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